Russell Simmons is extremely upset about voter suppression, and he wants everyone to know about it.
"It is hypocritical, it's anti-American, it destroys the democratic process," the Def Jam label founder and business magnate says. "And the people who need their votes to count the most are being suppressed."
Simmons is partnering with Battle For Your Ballot, a non-partisan movement to ensure every vote counts that is funded by Miami creative agency owner and HuffPost blogger Gerard Bush. Bush's firm The BRPR Group helped produce the YouTube short "Listen + Respond," visiting Simmons at his home to talk about the challenges to voting rights and the need to get proactive.
"The more we educate people," explains Simmons, "the better off we are."
It's a sentiment shared by Bush. BattleforyourBallot.com contains not only information on voter rights and requirements by state, but a section where voters can report instances of suppression or intimidation with photo, audio, and video attachments. Voters will also be able to report issues using the Twitter hashtag #battle4yourballot, and Battle For Your Ballot will alert both local and national news.
"When Rick Scott started in my own state with these incredibly aggressive voter suppression laws and using his elected office to do so, I was enraged," Bush told HuffPost. "And I thought, this is a cause we need to get behind...it's not a red state or blue state issue, it's an American issue."
According to NYU's Brennan Center For Social Justice, 17 states have passed restrictive voting laws or executive actions that can potentially impact the 2012 election since the beginning of 2011 -- and those states account for nearly 80 percent of the electoral vote total needed to win the presidency.
But voter intimidation or suppression can also happen at polling stations or on the job. BFYB hopes to record any instances where an employee is discouraged from leaving work to vote, activists block lines, or voters are harassed about undocumented family members. Bush is particularly concerned about True The Vote, a Tea Party-born group promising to send hundreds of "watchdogs" to polling stations to scrutinize voters and look for alleged non-citizens.
"I think a lot of people don't even realize in terms of preparedness what they need and what the laws are in terms of what they can do at the polls," Bush said.
But whether a voter or reporter is in Florida, Pennsylvania, or a state where laws haven't changed, Bush says Battle for the Ballot is determined to counter any problems through the power of social media.
"What's great about social media is you can have a cousin, a best friend, or a sister in college who lives in those states, and they're sharing with you and you can share and distribute that message," Bush said. "That's what's so fascinating about the era we live in. Some of the folks who are behind these new laws... do not respect the power of social media. They don't realize people have far more contact with people from outside their brick and mortar location. They don't understand the potency of these platforms."